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Elon Musk's Tesla Bot, Boston Dynamics Atlas, and Disney Imagineering's Baby Groot, Need to Get Together

The Tesla Bot.
The Tesla Bot.

Elon Musk recently launched a robotics concept, the Tesla Bot, that would've been amazing except it was little more than that, a concept.

As of writing this there is very little information on Tesla's website about the project, and Elon himself didn't really elaborate much in his very awkward launch presentation. I'm pretty sure he was winging it given how bad it was. However he did say they expected to have a prototype in about a year.



While the concept definitely has its critics (who see humanoid robots as highly inefficient), the general idea is to create a robot that can adapt to and perform any task an actual human could do. Not unlike the robots in the movie iRobot.

I don't doubt that, if anyone can make something that looks like the Tesla Bot concept, it's Tesla and Elon Musk.

Tesla has been working on artificial intelligence (A.I.) systems for quite some time, most notably in their development of self driving cars. While their autonomous cars are very close to being good enough for thinking about production, the issue of the system failing at high speed (or even regular speed) is less of a concern if the AI is applied to a humanoid robot that, as Elon says, wouldn't be capable of out running a human.

If Telsa can develop a decent AI, we are not too many years away from genuinely autonomous robots that can adapt to their environment as well as humans do. Boston Dynamics have pretty much demonstrated this with their Atlas robots.


While these robots are still largely choreographed in demonstrations like the above, my understanding is they can actually adapt to their environment 'on the fly' in general applications (i.e. they're not going to trip and fall if they unexpectedly walk on uneven ground).

All Atlas needs is the right AI that, not only can move it around autonomously but also gives the machine some semblance of a soul/personality/intelligence. Essentially it needs to feel like it's 'alive' in the way C3-PO and R2-D2 from the Star Wars franchise seem 'alive'.

This is where Disney Imagineering is leading the way. Disney has been a pioneer in robotics for much longer than you think with their automated character displays in their theme parks.

Disney Imagineering's 'Jake' Droid. Photo: Disney Imagineering Website.
Disney Imagineering's 'Jake' Droid.
Photo: Disney Imagineering Website.
Their goal is not just to make characters that move according to a set program of instructions but to also make characters that can interact with visitors to their park in a meaningful way. 

They're working on characters that can autonomously move around their parks, make their own decisions about where they go, and respond to people interacting with them in a way that makes sense. Essentially robots that seem like they are sentient.

The video below is a really good summary of their latest projects culminating in their 'Baby Groot' robot that is clearly a precursor for bigger and better character robots.


One point that stands out to me in the Disney video is the need to make the Baby Groot robot as light as possible so it uses less power.

We're all familiar with the term 'battery life' and, as you can imagine, that's a big issue for any kind of autonomous robot. Potentially it's the single biggest hurdle in robotics. If you've ever seen the batteries needed to power an electric car you'll know there's a lot of them, they're heavy, and take up space. All of which is not ideal for a bipedal robot of about human size.

However, Tesla is a world leader in battery technology so hopefully, with them entering the humanoid robot space, they'll put some real development into making batteries smaller but also more powerful.

Just don't attach lasers to any of these machines and we should be safe from any robot uprising.

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